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I've always had a thirst for building a rich, engaging world with a group of friends playing adventurers who explore said world, and to that end I have always wanted to be a Dungeon Master.

But, I have a bit of trepidation in venturing into a 3.5 campaign.

My trepidation largely stems from not a lack of knowing the rules, but a lack of confidence in being able to interpret those rules to the satisfaction of my players. 3.5 is MASSIVELY complex, and just to create one unique character would take a long time for a beginner DM. I have done small quests as part of a collective roleplaying experience before, but never anything as big as a campaign (even my quest consisted largely of just two big encounters in a sewer).

So, I'm looking for a system that takes it easy on the dungeon master. Any setting will do, it doesn't have to be the tradtional dragons and wizards (though for my personal preference, I'd like to rule out horror settings). My chief concern is an ease in worldbuilding and encounter creating. I've seen questions asking for good starter systems for new players, but few that focus on making it an easier task for the DM.

Arguments that 3.5 is perfectly legitimate to start off with are accepted, provided you can prove to me that is the case. Recommendations on how to make a first campaign easier for me would also be appreciated, as well as scenarios that might be a good starting point for me (though I really want to build my own).

Would an easy game to learn for players be equally easy for a DM to learn? Would the same system also be reasonable for a DM with inexperience making a campaign for players with lots of experience? And would this always be the case?


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marked as duplicate by KRyan, LitheOhm, Wibbs, GMJoe, Dakeyras Sep 19 '13 at 19:46

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Are you interested only in fantasy settings, or would generic systems and other genre specific answers be acceptable? – Wibbs Sep 18 '13 at 19:09
Mainly fantasy settings, but generic, or even other specific settings would be good too! The only thing I can really rule out is a horror setting, since that's one thing I can't see myself getting behind building. Anything else is fair game. – Zibbobz Sep 18 '13 at 19:12
I certainly feel like my answer to this question would be the same as my answer to this one. – KRyan Sep 18 '13 at 19:19
@Zibbobz But, if you disagree, please edit your question to indicate what exactly you’re looking for and why that question and its answers don’t fit. We’ll certainly try to help out. – KRyan Sep 18 '13 at 19:35
Possibly a discussion to be had in chat? – Wibbs Sep 18 '13 at 19:45
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Dungeon World

Some people make great DMs in nearly any system, but in my own experience, being even just a good GM was elusive. The game that changed that for me was Dungeon World. While it does take a bit of time for a new GM to wrap his or her head around the rules, once you have it, you can play a game with very little prep. When I say very little, I mean nothing on paper, just an idea or two is all you need.

The rules are quite different from 3.5 or 4e, but it has the D&D feel to it, so it's not too alien of an experience for creative players. Dungeon World is just a lot of fun without the work of making a campaign because the worldbuilding is shared by the whole group as you go.

Since Dungeon World has an open license you can read a free, perfectly legal, version of the rules online.

If you are interested, I also strongly recommend you read the fan-written Dungeon World Guide.


I would suggest the Cortex system, as far as I'm concerned its a pretty simple system to run that takes a lot of pressure off of the GM. All actions go against a set difficulty system which requires very little memorization on the Gm's part. The generic system does not support fantasy too well, but the Assets and Complications allow a lot of room to build your race specifically as you want.

My other suggestion, which I think might actually be a better choice is Mouse Guard. As far as easy systems go, this one is by far is one of the easiest start up and the rule book does a very good job of guiding you on how to make characters and run a game. The only thing that may deter you from playing could be the lack of magic, but understand that the system is more Renaissance based rather than fantasy.


4e is probably a lot easier on players (and ESPECIALLY on DMs) than 3.5. It's not as complex and leaves way less open to interpretation.

If rule knowledge is less a concern for you than than complexity in world building and adventure design, 3.5 might still be a good fit for you (especially if its a system you and your players have some small familiarity to or preferences towards). I would more recommend picking up an established campaign setting and a few well-recommended published adventures to cut your teeth while you build confidence to branch out on your own. When you've felt confident in establishing your own world, either find a good end to the campaign, or open up a portal and drag the characters through to it.

As far as where to choose; Forgotten Realms is pretty stereotypical D&D sword & sorcery and has a TON of great material to use. A really great campaign world for beginning D&D. I'm partial to Eberron myself, but it has few quality modules to rely on and part of what marks it work so well is how it subverts so many classic D&D traditions. Still, my new players love that setting too.

Also, as you run pre-made modules, you'll begin to get a sense for which parts of the stat blocks are important, which aren't, and which you can make up on the fly. Skills are a great example, and something that can be easy to get bogged down by when statting up individual monsters. The goblin scout would probably have the highest spot check possible given his HD, but his buddy behind him with the greatsword probably wouldn't put any ranks in it. The scout would definitely get a better bonus than the tank behind him would. Any game system would expect you to make that distinction; 3.5 just gives you the exact framework to follow until you've learned to adjudicate that kind of situation on the fly.

You'll also learn what your players are like and can plan accordingly. o you even need to bother determining Spot checks for monsters if your party never bothers with stealth?

Confidence is really the main key here. Any DM using any system needs to have (or at least have the ability to portray) confidence in making rulings. In many ways, a rules-heavy set like 3.5 is actually a good thing because it provides the very structured framework for how situations should play out, but gives you the permission to freeform it once you've gotten used to those frameworks.

But then, mostly I'm just a huge 3.5 fan, and I've found myself personally struggling way more with less rules-heavy game systems, both as a player and as a DM. I freeform quite a bit as a DM, and my 3.5 adventures typically take less time to plan for than they take to run. NPC design, spellcasters aside, probably takes the least amount of that time for me. It's something that's come with experience though, but worth sticking through, in my opinion.


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